Monday, December 16, 2013

Stinky cheese and more!

The term “stinky cheese” is often applied to the family of cheeses called “Washed Rind.”  The washed rind cheese name is derived from the salt water bath that the cheese wheels are given. This happens in conjunction with a wash of herbs,  wine, brandy or some kind of local spirits.

The rind created is a paradox compared with the cheese paste itself. Rind is: stinky, no other word for it. Cheese or “paste” itself is luxuriously creamy and probably a medium mild taste. This creamy description is not like the brie creamy, but more flexible, springy and soft in texture. Some people like the rind and cheese together when taking a bite. I prefer the secret flavor of the cheese inside the rind.

Some washed rind cheeses are Taleggio, Fermier D’Alsace, Epoises from Burgundy, Ponte I’Eveque from Normandy plus many others such as Port Salud, and the notorious (in the U.S.) Limburger. These are all made from cow milk. I do know of others made with goat’s milk.

Limburger has a uniquely American usage, other than just snacking on it.  It was a tradition, about 40+ years ago here, that an unsuspecting couple leaving on their honeymoon would find it planted on their car engine block many miles after leaving for their destination. They were clued in, of course, by the permeating smell of one of the stinkiest of cheeses. A smell, in many instances, that would never leave! A reminder, pleasant or otherwise, of one of life’s happy milestones.

Washed rinds can be stinky to the nose, yet palatable to the taste buds. They can be served alone, but are very much at home with so many food pairings.. 

A lovely and very simple pairing is placing some Taleggio alongside cut marinated, roasted tomatoes from the antipasti bar on a simple broiled round of baguette, brushed with olive oil. Washed rinds hold up well to a drizzle of fig spread, earthy enough to compliment the complexity of the cheese.

These are cheeses at home with port, dry sherry, red wine, nuts, dried and fresh fruits and intense vegetable flavors found in tomato pesto or chutneys as well as cured meats. Here in the Seattle area, we have the options of Spanish hams, Procuitto di’Parma or simple local Salumi Salamis. 

Washed rinds are often overlooked in favor of more traditional cheeses, however, they offer a new cheese universe -- so unique, such a treat for a host or hostess to introduce such cheeses for entertainment. With or without rinds (my co-workers would blanch at the without), this cheese should be eaten with your own taste in mind. They are each just as unique as the person serving them.

Enjoy washed rind cheeses at any store with a good collection of cheeses by family type. A charcuterie and antipasti bar open additional new horizons for entertainment.

We’ll talk more about cheese families and pairings in upcoming blogs.

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